Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation increases bilateral directed brain connectivity during motor-imagery based brain-computer interface control

Bryan S. Baxter, Bradley J. Edelman, Abbas Sohrabpour, Bin He

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28 Scopus citations


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to affect motor and cognitive task performance and learning when applied to brain areas involved in the task. Targeted stimulation has also been found to alter connectivity within the stimulated hemisphere during rest. However, the connectivity effect of the interaction of endogenous task specific activity and targeted stimulation is unclear. This study examined the aftereffects of concurrent anodal high-definition tDCS over the left sensorimotor cortex with motor network connectivity during a one-dimensional EEG based sensorimotor rhythm brain-computer interface (SMR-BCI) task. Directed connectivity following anodal tDCS illustrates altered connections bilaterally between frontal and parietal regions, and these alterations occur in a task specific manner; connections between similar cortical regions are altered differentially during left and right imagination trials. During right-hand imagination following anodal tDCS, there was an increase in outflow from the left premotor cortex (PMC) to multiple regions bilaterally in the motor network and increased inflow to the stimulated sensorimotor cortex from the ipsilateral PMC and contralateral sensorimotor cortex. During left-hand imagination following anodal tDCS, there was increased outflow from the stimulated sensorimotor cortex to regions across the motor network. Significant correlations between connectivity and the behavioral measures of total correct trials and time-to-hit (TTH) correct trials were also found, specifically that the input to the left PMC correlated with decreased right hand imagination performance and that flow from the ipsilateral posterior parietal cortex (PPC) to midline sensorimotor cortex correlated with improved performance for both right and left hand imagination. These results indicate that tDCS interacts with task-specific endogenous activity to alter directed connectivity during SMR-BCI. In order to predict and maximize the targeted effect of tDCS, the interaction of stimulation with the dynamics of endogenous activity needs to be examined comprehensively and understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number691
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - Dec 7 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Albert You and Nicholas Nesbitt for technical assistance.This work was supported in part by NIH AT009263, NIH EB021027, NIH NS096761, NIH MH114233, NIH EY023101, NIH HL117664, NSF CBET-1264782, and NSF DGE-1069104.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Baxter, Edelman, Sohrabpour and He.


  • BCI
  • Brain-computer interface
  • Connectivity
  • TDCS
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation


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